Georgia Dome crumbles -- well, most of it

The Georgia Dome didn’t go down without a fight. 

When the dust and smoke cleared from Monday morning’s implosion, two sections of the 25-year-old building were still standing, defying the dynamite. 

Photos: Georgia Dome implosion

“I think she might have been a little sturdier than what they gave her credit for,” said Carl Adkins, the Dome’s former general manager. 

He smiled slightly, seemingly proud one last time of a building that hosted Super Bowls, Final Fours, the Olympics, 256 Falcons games and many other marquee events from 1992 until early this year. 

“It served the city and state well in its day,” Dan Graveline, the former executive director of the Georgia World Congress Center Authority, said moments before the implosion. “It helped Atlanta reach the pinnacle of the sports world.”

Other than the two portions that stubbornly refused to fall -- a long  wall on the east end and a ramp structure on the northwest corner -- the Georgia Dome succumbed in about 12 seconds to 4,800 pounds of explosives. 

The roof collapsed first, and most of the rest of the building promptly crumbled within its footprint, leaving behind a pile of rubble and a quarter-century of memories.

The surviving sections will be knocked down by mechanical means, such as “large excavators with concrete-crushing pulverizers,” according to Rick Cuppetilli, executive vice president of the Detroit-based Adamo Group, the lead demolition contractor.

He said he doesn’t yet know how long it will take to demolish the remaining portions or why they didn’t fall during the implosion.

“We haven’t assessed everything yet,” he said.

The parts that remain standing, he said, are no big deal to demolish.

“We do that every day all over the country. It’s nothing,” Cuppetilli said. “Basically one of the six ramps and maybe a couple hundred feet of wall, that’s it.”

“It’s pretty normal for a demolition-implosion effort of this type to have a small percentage of the remaining structure intact,” said Wayne Wadsworth, principal in charge of Holder Hunt Russell Moody, the general contractor for Mercedes-Benz Stadium.  “That’s exactly what we see here.”

Cuppetilli said the implosion caused “no damage at all” to the adjacent Georgia World Congress Center and only “one little nick” to the new $1.5 billion-plus stadium located just 83 feet away. He described that nick as a scratch in a door frame.

Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which opened Aug. 26, did receive a heavy blast of dust as a parting shot from its predecessor.

“The wind switched on us and went right there,” Cuppetilli said. “We weren’t going to stop the implosion, so we’re going to work on cleanup efforts with them.”

Richard Adamo, president of the demolition contractor, pushed the button to set off the explosives that had been strategically placed throughout the Georgia Dome. 

“It was quite impressive watching it come down,” Cuppetilli said. “The portions that came down, I couldn’t have been happier.”

He said the roof was a demolition challenge, because no other has ever been built like it.

“Our focus was on the roof and the (upper) ring,” he said. “Our focus was ... to make the dangerous parts come down.”

Seeing the building crumble was an emotional and nostalgic experience for the 100 or so people -- many of them long associated with the Dome -- who watched from a private viewing platform about 2,500 feet away.

Adkins described the moment as “surreal” and admitted he teared up “just a little.” 

Another person in the group could be heard crying audibly as the Dome disappeared.

Moments earlier, Graveline, who retired as GWCCA executive director in 2009 and was instrumental in getting the Dome built, put the emotions in context.

“I know many of us … are kind of sad to see the old girl come down with this much love, sweat and tears in it,” he told the gathering. “But I hope that most who were involved in it from day one and beyond also have a great sense of pride about what we did with the Dome. 

“We’re a little bit sad, very much proud, and I think excited that the future of the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium is bright.”

In all, the Georgia Dome hosted 1,456 events, which were attended by about 39 million people and, according to the GWCCA, generated economic impact of $7.4 billion over the past 25 years.  

Shortly after the implosion, the Dome’s official Twitter account posted a photo of the still-standing wall and these words: “Y’all thought it would be easy just to get rid of me? Nah.”

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